Sir Tim Berners-Lee Calls For Web Freedom In Wake Of PRISM Scandal

Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said his invention of the world wide web should be safeguarded from being controlled by governments or large corporations.

The computer scientist's words of warning came as he and five colleagues were recognised by the Queen for their pioneering working in helping to create the internet and the web.

Sir Tim, Robert Kahn, Vint Cerf and Louis Pouzin were jointly awarded the inaugural £1 million Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering during a glittering Buckingham Palace reception attended by the leaders of the three main parties - David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

Their work in establishing first the internet, a network of interconnected computer systems, then interlinked web pages accessed via the internet has revolutionised communication.

The Queen described how their achievements had "completely changed" aspects of modern life and hailed engineering as the "noble profession".

Above: Berners-Lee with PM David Cameron at the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering

Asked to comment on the claims made by fugitive American whistle-blower Edward Snowden that his invention is being used by governments to access communications between individuals, Sir Tim said:

"The original design of the web of 24 years ago was for a universal space, we didn't have a particular computer in mind or browser, or language.

"When you make something can be used for good things or nasty things...we just have to make sure it's not undercut by any large companies or governments trying to use it and get total control."

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is designed to reward and celebrate individuals responsible for ground-breaking innovation in engineering that has benefited the whole of humanity.

During the presentation ceremony, the Queen said: "At its heart, engineering is about using science to find creative, practical solutions. It is a noble profession.

She added:

"These days, engineering is seldom a solo effort and is increasingly a global endeavour. The winners of the first prize are a splendid example of this - five individuals across two continents who have completely transformed the way we communicate, do business and share knowledge. Our congratulations go not only to the winners, but also to their colleagues and teams.

"The Internet and the World Wide Web have brought the world and its people together in ways we could not have imagined 60, or even 30, years ago. And so, I have great pleasure in giving my name to this Prize."

The fifth joint recipient Marc Andreessen was not present and will receive his trophy from the UK's Ambassador in America.

American Mr Kahn, an engineer and computer scientist, and fellow award recipient Mr Cerf, invented the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol, which together make up the fundamental architecture at the heart of the internet.

Sir Tim originally developed the web to meet the demand for information-sharing between physicists in universities and institutes around the world.

Pouzin, a French engineer, invented the Cyclades computer network and its datagram packet switching network, which influenced the internet protocols that are still in use today

Andreessen, an American entrepreneur, investor and software engineer is best known for co-authoring the first widely used web browser, Mosaic.